Fact check: Will Romney send Big Bird to the unemployment line?
October 4th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

Fact check: Will Romney send Big Bird to the unemployment line?

Mitt Romney said that he loves Big Bird but that the "Sesame Street" resident is not important enough for America to go into debt with China to subsidize him and his PBS friends. Does this mean our feathered friend could lose his job under a Romney administration? Would he then become a drain on our society? Are there retraining opportunities to become a St. Louis Cardinal or Baltimore Oriole? What family does Big Bird have? Who the heck is this yellow thing?

How likely is it that Big Bird gets the pink slip?

Our yellow feathered friend may be hoping he'll be able to mind his Ps and Qs on "Sesame Street" but might be feeling a little worried about his bills while the cloud of losing his job hangs over his head. How likely is it?

Sesame Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street," says on its website that 93% of production costs for the show are covered by licensing activities or corporate sponsorships, CNNMoney.com reports.

But Children's Television Workshop, which helps produce "Sesame Street," gets a decent number of grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Here are the numbers for those ready to count with the Count: In 2009, it received $2.5 million in total. In 2010, a federal Ready to Learn grant, which helps put on educational TV shows, provided about $1.5 million, and the overall digital presence for "Sesame Street" and friends got $8 million to help spread educational messages and games online in 2011.

So maybe Big Bird should be taking this seriously. Even if most of the funding goes to his friends, a change in funding might put them out of work too if Romney were to go through with his idea to cut subsides to PBS. And that doesn't sound like it'd help all the people in his neighborhood.

It isn't the first time Big Bird has found himself in the middle of a national budget debate.

Last year, he survived a brush with budget-cut-hungry Republicans in the House, who voted to slash funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, only to see it added back into the final government funding deal.

What happens to Big Bird's health insurance if he gets axed?

If our "Sesame Street" friend did join the 12.5 million Americans who are unemployed, his joyful tone may switch to a sad rendition of "Can you tell me how to get to the unemployment line?"

There's good news and bad news for Big Bird. It appears if he loses his job, he doesn't have many dependent family members, so while health insurance may be an issue, he won't have any kids or family members to support. Phew. He may try to give a shout to his Granny Bird and Nani Bird (his aunt), who helped raise him, for a little extra cash, though. (We’ve heard that idea before.)

On the upside, Big Bird still has plenty of time ahead of him – well, depending on which “official record” you use.

His boss swears he’s 6 years old, but we’re a little wary. That bird has been flocking around TV for ages, 40 years to be exact. And unless he’s a Benjamin Button bird, he’s got a lot of explaining to do. It seems like we may need to stop and ask Mr. Bird for his official paperwork. But that’s a different debate.

For now, we’ll take the bird at his word.

At 6 years old, he'll have some time to refocus and perhaps try to get an education to bolster his options when he looks for work again. After all, we know Big Bird is good with children, so surely he can handle some rowdy sports fans, right?

Who’s to say he can’t get a degree and find a new home away from Sesame Street, and if he doesn’t have to deal with mountains of school debt, he should be able to afford to move to, say, Baltimore or St. Louis to help rally fans around the Orioles or Cardinals.

Let’s just hope he’s OK with dyeing his feathers a different color. (We aren’t sure whether his new health insurance plan would cover that.)

And while health care may always be an issue (hey, you never know about avian flu), the good news is, he has plenty of time to wait and see whether he'll have to be worried about Medicare down the line.

Would Big Bird outsource himself instead?

Sometimes you can debate whether tax breaks for going overseas are good. But for Big Bird, the temptation might be there, if nothing else than to frustrate Romney after his dig.

Big Bird, whose "Sesame Street" owners said he went to sleep early Wednesday night and wondered whether he'd "missed anything last night,” may even be on the phone right now with his cousin Da Niao in China.

Romney said he'd want to cut subsidies to PBS because he's "not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."

That may have been a big blow to the yellow feathered friend, because Big Bird shares a special love for China.

Big Bird went to China after he was inspired by a scroll in Chinatown in the first international special based on "Sesame Street." Besides being fascinated by the culture, he thought it'd be great for the two countries to have a good working relationship; there's so much they could learn from each other.

"Everyone in America wants to know about China, right? What a great thing it would be if a great big American bird went to meet the beautiful Chinese bird," Big Bird said. "I mean, she could tell me everything about China, and I could come home and tell everyone here."

Let’s hope his date isn’t a Peking duck. Then his goose would be cooked.

– – – – – –

So that was a bit of fun. Here’s how the real CNN Fact Check Team broke down Wednesday’s debate and the rest of Campaign 2012.

And comedian Dean Obeidallah has fond memories of Big Bird and hopes he will get a reprieve.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney • Politics • TV
soundoff (686 Responses)
  1. rcflyer8410

    How in the heck are we going to give more handouts to billionaires if we are wasting money on things like healthcare and education? We also need to keep our defense budget at obscene levels – after all, Halliburton likes it's windfall contracts. Blowing things up and them rebuilding is great!

    Some easy cuts that will yield more than this one:
    30% from defense – and it's still funded at OBSCENE levels
    Take away billions in subsidies to big oil – haven't they been posting record profits?
    And i we really want to help our national security situation and save some bucks: Get us out of other countries, get off of oil dependency so we can truly be independent...hmmm..seems like there are billions to be saved. But then where the heck are politicians going to get their campaign funds if big oil is collapsed? Oh wait ... save even more – disallow corporations from providing unlimited campaign funds, thus saving BILLIONS of wasted money, and equalizing the election process and shifting control back to the people!

    October 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Paulie

    We arent even allowed to get television for free anymore why the hell do we need to give government money to PBS. Let it go private someone else will pay for that if there is a demand.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronald Raygun

      i watch pbs for free and about 42 other channels from my digital antenna.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • BP VS Big Bird

      Paulie, you are wrong. You can still get free television, you just need an antenna and you will only get your local channels, and one of those channels could be PBS.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • marcus

      right.... privatized Big Bird, with big exxon-mobile logo on its stomach.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • MLatino

      You can just cut off cable and use and antenna. That's what we do at our house. It's like 1975 all over again in our house, and Big Bird and his friends are free!

      October 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • dangstar

      Um, last I checked broadcast TV is still free. All you need is an HD antenna and you're good to go. I've never had cable in my entire life, but I still am able to watch most of my favorite shows on TV.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • marcus

      she is not poor enough to get free television.. poor paulie and her kids...growing up with cable and corporate logo heavy children tv shows..... i guess this is a 100% guarantee way to get kids to be corporate friendly with republican tendencies

      October 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heavenonearth

      Why would he bother? BIG BIRD is the 47 percent. He said he would give parents the choice to send their children to where they want. Yes, they can do that because they would not be the 47 percent. Like most things he said in the debate, the things he proposed is only possible if you are rich. Wake up ! The 47 percent he doesn't care would not be included in the mit..(oh, it's stocking) over the fireplace this holiday – 47 in one ear and out the other!!! BIG BIRD, time to fly to a higher branch while you are young and strong.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Big bird died in an oil spill.
      He was quickly replaced by a Republican chickenhawk
      dressed as big bird.

      The "new improved" big bird will teach children
      to pick up a gun, and hate your neighbor.

      Welcome to The New World Order,
      This is Mitt Romney, and i approved this message.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JC

    Only Big Bird can go to China?

    @Tracy Jeffords:
    Look, do us all a favor and please, please don't breed. The human population can in no way handle the massive influx of stupidity genes present in your DNA.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paulie

    Tell you what when the government allows us to receive broadcast TV channels over the airwaves again without a box I will vote for Big Bird ok?

    October 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seansa

      Or you could buy a tv made in the last 10 years?

      October 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • marcus

      Paulie.. you are sadly mis-informed.. the boxes were pushed by corporations and its lobbyists...

      October 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ramiro

    How about cutting subsidies to BIG OIL instead of Big Bird???

    October 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben B

      And Solyndra and the rest of the failed Green Energy subsidies Obama has funded.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • BP VS Big Bird

      Ben, like many conservatives you seem short sighted. The truth is simple, solar energy will never run out.. oil will, I think that not accepting reality, and being willing to destroy our lands and coastal waters, littering them with oil rigs shows a lack of concern for our grandchildren. Thanks for putting yourself first, and family down to the bottom of the list.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ben B

    You mean with the country at above 8% unemployment, jobs numbers that came out today that are not good news, $16 Trillion Defecit, $1 Trillion in debt, price of gas, cost of health care STILL, and all the things that Romney put into play last night...we are actually going to discuss Big Bird. PBS can take a hike as long as Medicare is there for me and my kids, or this defecit is fixed...Big Bird, for real. FOR REAL. President Obama even spent a portion of his campaign speech on it – REALLY. After last night he comes out of the gate with BIG BIRD!!!! He just may be as clueless as he looked last night.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      16 trillion deficit? and 1 trillion debt? Good Republican's don't even realize the definition of "Debt" and "deficit"

      October 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bobby Bankston

    With the exception of Oscar the Grouch (big-time angry conservative NRA member, poor as dirt but never asks anyone for a handout and doesn't blame the government for his living in a trash-can), Sesame Street characters are all liberal Democrats.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seansa

      I knew I liked Oscar!

      October 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hammerdown

      Teaching children to have respect, concern, and compassion
      for others is a liberal thing ?
      I will take a liberal any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

      You Republicans have faulty wiring.
      Seek help.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. just me

    I love big bird. Him and Burt and Ernie. And especially The Count and The Cookie Monster. They are nice. But if cuts need to be made, I'm sure we can watch them in reruns. An episode filmed 10 years ago is as good as one filmed today. Maybe even better.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Seansa

    Spending money on national defense is the biggest waste on earth? Surely you are a troll.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. authormarkmillion

    It's understanding why Romney wants to get rid of big bird, hes a loving creature that lives in an urban setting and helps people find their potential. Romney would rather him work for Sesame Street bank and foreclose on Sesame Street homes.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BP VS Big Bird

    So Big Bird gets axed by Mitt while BP keeps its check? Oil before our Children? The party that talks about family values and how much debt we leave our children, are not concerned about their education or enviroment. Mitt wants to cut the number of teachers and add more oil rigs along our beautiful coast.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. draxta

    Real newsworthy stuff there, CNN. Out of the entire debate, this is what you take the time to report on? I wouldn't give spit to PBS nor any other public broadcasting. So to #ell with big birdbrain.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tomnikoly

    China controls only about 8% of US debt. PBS gets about $444m a year. That's a drop in the bucket. The "bird" the neocons REALLY want is called the F-22 Raptor not to mention the F-35 JSF. Both of these "birds" will cost trillions just to maintain by the Pentagon's own figures.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tian Ti

      And all you Chinese in China are all cheaters. Listen to what he says over and over all you people. It's like all you people 47% ters are victims. Even children learn we cannot have a bully up at the pulpit.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steven CJ

    Wow. That's one amateurish cheesy story... How can this be front page?

    October 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NoddaLib

    You libs. It was a joke. In the Romney administration if the market wants Big Bird they will pay for it. It's just that a broke government has to make choices and (just like in our personal lives) Big Bird is a choice that we should go into debt to have. I agree.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hammerdown


      You libs. It was a joke. In the Romney administration if the market wants Big Bird they will pay for it. It's just that a broke government has to make choices and (just like in our personal lives) Big Bird is a choice that we should go into debt to have. I agree.

      Republicans say.......
      Yes to Big Banks
      Yes to Big Oil
      Yes to outrageous defense spending

      No to educational television for children.

      It was NOT a joke.
      Its what they believe in.

      America is in trouble because of Republican policies,
      and you want those same policies back in place ?

      You idiots love to use the term "libtards"
      The only retards here are the ones
      who cant learn from past mistakes.

      With you Republicans, history

      broken phuking record.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
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